Eight, plus one, more empowered outstanding women


Ma. Isabel Ongpin

THE Zonta Club of Makati and Environs has announced its second set of BRAVO Awards for empowered women for 2017. In partnership with Security Bank, a leading universal bank in the Philippines, it is recognizing women who have achieved a body of work through leadership and service that redounds not only to them as individuals but to the community they are a part of, transforming lives of others meaningfully for the better.

The process consists of submitting nominations and then coming up with a shortlist of candidates, but transiting from one to the other apparently involves a lot of research, hard work, good judgment and a meticulous journey of discovery. Nominees have to go through hurdles like displaying vision and leadership, social impact, innovation, sustainability and being recognized as role models. For the eight awards, there are eight categories – education, business, science and technology, sports, arts, culture and heritage, social services, culinary arts and media and public affairs.

The process was perhaps lengthy, but the results are felicitous. All categories produced nominations and each came up with someone outstanding and worthy of the award. There are now eight more recognized, admired and acclaimed empowered women among us. Plus, one very special award for Jessie Lichauco, the lady who with a sense of curiosity, adventure and love (as the title of her granddaughter’s film about her says) came to the Philippines to make her home here decades ago. Now at 105, Jessie Lichauco, made a Filipino citizen by an act of Congress in 2012, is getting a Zonta Special Award for Social Services for her years of work for the Asociacion de Damas Filipinas and other havens for orphans and women in distress in her neighborhood and beyond. And that is not all, during the Battle of Manila in 1945, Jessie led her family in taking in refugees, sharing their means with them and looking for medical help for those who needed it in the midst of shelling, fires and other fearsome war conditions. Over the years, her charitable works have been well known and well appreciated and have inspired others to emulate her.

The other eight awardees are: Elsie Romano of Naga City, the division head of early childhood care and development for education. She has innovated the concept of daycare centers from a standby area for kids to play and socialize to a place where they can learn. She has now 76 such “Educare” centers in Naga, a boon to the community of working parents and their children.

For science and technology, the award goes to Mary Beth Maningas, a scientist with a doctorate from the Tokyo University who has perfected the technique for RNA interference, a new and revolutionary technology that facilitates understanding of unknown biological mechanisms paving the way for various applications for improving everyday life from diagnostics to therapeutics.

The business award goes to Zarah Juan, an independent bag and shoemaker who brings artisans, weavers, suppliers together to create Filipino products from material to design. Young and creative, entrepreneurial and innovative, her business has helped many.

Sadhana Busani, well-known photographer and documentary filmmaker who tackles urgent social issues such as child labor, women and children in difficult situations, children in conflict with the law, homeless people, war-torn regions, is the awardee for media and public affairs. She has co-founded an organization of women photographers that are now making their mark and exploring these issues.

Yvette “Betsy” Medalla gets the sports award for “open water swimming: which means just that, swimming in the sea and not in pools. She is pioneering the sport in the country with island to island swims in Bicol and at the Verde Island Passage from Lobo, Batangas. This is a world sport being introduced by her to the Philippines which could become a tourist draw.

Susan Ople (nickname Toots) is the social service awardee for her well-known work with OFWs from reintegration to repatriation as well as extending legal help and government agency assistance to OFWs in need. She founded the Blas V. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute where she has put together everyone concerned from the private to public sector to combat modern slavery, a pernicious and untoward event in current times. She is a columnist for the Manila Times.

The culinary arts awardee, Susana P. Guerrero, founded a pioneer culinary arts school, the Center for Culinary Arts (CCA) where she has embarked beyond cooking to entrepreneurship, sustainable environmentalism and corporate social responsibility. Certainly above and beyond recipes and meals to inspiration and help for small business, training for employment and along the way keeping the environment as it should be.

Sister Mary Placid Abejo is the awardee for arts, culture and heritage. An institution and icon at the Department of Music of St. Scholastica’s College, one of the leading music schools of the country, Sister Mary Placid, who is a Benedictine nun, is not only a performer, composer but an outstanding teacher of music. She was the dean of the music department at St. Scholastica for 32 years, a dean emeritus now retired and still a music teacher known for innovative ways of teaching and expanding her reach to other schools to teach music.

BRAVO to the Awardees on August 16 and bravo to the Zonta Club of Makati and Environs and the Security Bank for recognizing, admiring and acclaiming empowered women.


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